2 killed at Christian missionary center in Colorado - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

2 killed at Christian missionary center in Colorado

ARVADA, Colo. (AP) - A gunman killed two staff members at a missionary training center early Sunday after being told he couldn't spend the night, and about 12 hours later four people were shot outside a megachurch in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs police Lt. Fletcher Howard said a suspect had been detained in the shootings there. Authorities in Arvada, a Denver suburb about 65 miles north, said no one had been captured in the shootings there.

It was not immediately known whether the shootings were related, but Arvada authorities said they were sharing information with Colorado Springs investigators.

Howard declined to say whether the Colorado Springs suspect had been shot. The shooting there was reported shortly after 1 p.m. Police sealed off the church, but it was not clear whether any parishioners were still inside.

The conditions of the four people shot Sunday afternoon in Colorado Springs, in the parking lot of the New Life Church, was not immediately known, El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene said.

The first shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center in Arvada, a Denver suburb, police spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

A man and a woman were killed and two men were wounded, Medina said. All four were staff members with the center, said Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission.

The gunman came to the door of the Arvada dormitory seeking shelter, asking whether he could spend the night, said Peter Warren, director of Youth With a Mission Denver.

When told he couldn't stay, the man walked inside, opened fire, then left on foot, Warren said.

Warren said he didn't know whether any of the students or staff knew the gunman. "We don't know why" he came to the dormitory, Warren said.

Witnesses told police that the gunman was a 20-year-old white male, wearing a dark jacket and skull cap, who left on foot. He may have glasses or a beard.

Police with dogs searched the area through the night, and residents of nearby homes were notified by reverse 911 to be on the lookout. Medina said residents were asked to look out their windows for any tracks left in the snow during the night. About 4 inches of snow had fallen in the area in the past day.

Early Sunday afternoon, Lance Coles, a pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, received a report that a man was shooting at people in the church parking lot and that the gunman may have entered the church, he told The Associated Press.

New Life was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was fired last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted committing undisclosed "sexual immorality."

The New Life church is one of Colorado's largest with about 10,000 members.

Police in Arvada identified the victims of the shooting there as Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 23. Youth With a Mission said Johnson was from Minnesota and Crouse was from Alaska.

The missionary center identified the wounded as Dan Griebenow, 24, of South Dakota, and Charlie Branch, 22, whose hometown wasn't immediately known. One of the men was in critical condition, and the other was stable, police said.

About 45 people were evacuated from the Youth with a Mission dormitory and moved to an undisclosed location.

The missionary center is located on the grounds of the Faith Bible Chapel. Cheril Morrison, wife of chapel pastor George Morrison, said Crouse had just hung up Christmas lights at her home and that Johnson was "an amazingly beautiful person."

Mimi Martin, who lives near the center, said she received the warning call at about 9 a.m. warning neighbors to keep their doors and windows locked.

"Why would anybody want to hurt those kids?" Martin said.

Darv Smith, director of a Youth With a Mission center in Boulder, said people ranging from their late teens to their 70s undergo a 12-week course that prepares them to be missionaries. He said the center trains about 300 people a year.

Filidis said staffers are usually former missionaries themselves and that the "mercy ministries" performed by trainees include orphanage work. He said he didn't know where the group being trained in Arvada was going to be sent.

Youth With a Mission was started in 1960 and now has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff, Smith said. The Arvada center was founded in 1984.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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